1 year ago

Volume 27 Issue 4 - February 2022

Gould's Wall -- Philip Akin's "breadcrumb trail; orchestras buying into hope; silver linings to the music theatre lockdown blues; Charlotte Siegel's watershed moments; Deep Wireless at 20; and guess who is Back in Focus. All this and more, now online for your reading pleasure.


GAETZ PHOTOGRAPHY SHANNON CARRANCO L to R, Marigold co-founders Charlotte Siegel, Kevin Mulligan and Khadija Mbowe co-founded Marigold, [] an initiative to make community-based music education (both classical and other genres), accessible to racialized youth from a wide spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, with the goal of helping to build stronger, more resilient communities. “It is important to show youth that people who look like you do this kind of music,” says Siegel, who serves as the program’s managing director. Marigold’s namesake brilliant orange flower, Siegel explains, sprouts up anywhere but only thrives in a particular type of soil. Marigold strives to supply each participant with their own uniquely enriching environment tailored to make them thrive. Co-founding Marigold was another leap of faith for Siegel. “What do I know about running a non-profit?” she wondered. But the bolder, braver Siegel forged ahead. “I believe in it,” she told herself. “So let’s figure it out.” (Marigold has already secured Ontario Arts Council funding, as well as a Pillar Sponsorship from the University of Toronto.) The program unfolds in two steps. The Summer Music Intensive, staffed by professional musicians, targets the tools of music, including composition, and culminates in a collective showcase partially written by the youth. Afterwards, the participants are individually matched to compatible mentors who meet with them weekly to flesh out their aspirations, offer resources and accompany them on outings to shows and other venues. Marigold’s philosophy, including its championship of accessibility, echoes that of Siegel’s own alma mater. Both RPSM and Marigold inspire students to dig deep and take stock of their innermost feelings. Monthly meetings at Marigold begin with a check-in, when every participant gets the chance to tell whatever is on their mind. “[We’re] making sure they feel heard and valued,” says Siegel. Marigold’s egalitarian staff-student relationships are also modelled on RPSM. Mentors act as cheerleaders and advocates for their charges, providing a safe space for mentees to learn to trust their instincts as they explore their lives’ directions. “It’s not ‘Do what I say,’” says Siegel. “It’s believing in yourself.” Like RPSM, Marigold hopes to build a sense of belonging and community through participants’ intense, shared adventure in music. Regardless of their aspirations, everyone benefits from the connections woven by exposure to the medium. “You’re not alone, we have shared experiences,” Siegel says. “That’s what the arts have to offer.” Ultimately, Siegel hopes that participants’ immersion in Marigold will empower them, whatever life path they find themselves on. The discipline instilled through practice, the chance to experiment with new possibilities and the opportunity to play games and have fun all contribute to a heightened sense of agency, says Siegel. “I’m one of those people who believe you can do anything you want,” says Siegel. “We’re just hoping to show that.” It seems that Siegel and her team are succeeding. Members are already forging a community. “They just love coming in to chat and hang out and reconnect with the group.” Recently, one trainee was elated when she received a scholarship to Branksome Hall, the high school of her dreams. “She never would have thought of applying there before,” says Siegel. But the interviewing and résumé skills gleaned from Marigold, along with a renewed confidence in herself, helped to clinch the coveted spot. “I am just so proud of what we have been able to do in a year,” says Siegel. Siegel too is flourishing. Last August she was admitted into the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, a training program combining elite level mentorship with challenging performance opportunities, onstage and in recital. “I do feel quite supported,” she says. Today Siegel takes vocal classes as well as master workshops in breath work, diction and acting. She’s also preparing for her upcoming debuts in Fantasma and The Magic Flute. “And that I’m very, very excited about,” says Siegel. Siegel continues to hone her musical craft, absorbing life lessons along the way: a life coach at the Canadian Opera Company has recently helped her recognize that she is happiest when balancing hard work with reparative self-care and family time, Siegel says. This discovery has been liberating “because if you are a full person outside of music, then you need not dread making the inevitable musical mistake.” This knowledge continues to bust Siegel out of the bonds of perfectionism and propels her towards a freer future. Charlotte Siegel has come a long way from the hesitant 19-year-old teetering on top of the metaphorical cliff. She’s become a risk-taker, taking the plunge, finding new possibilities outside her comfort zone. It’s never easy. “It’s a scary feeling right before you go,” says Siegel. But the euphoria of jumping and surviving more than makes up for the anxiety. “You do something and you don’t die,” says Siegel. “Yeah, it’s addicting.” Upcoming COC performances by Charlotte Siegel: Fantasma (she plays Léa’s mother, Manon) March 9,10,12,13 (2022) The Magic Flute (she plays Second Lady) May 6,8,11,14,17,19,21 (2022) To learn more about Marigold, see Vivien Fellegi is a former family physician now working as a freelance journalist. Digital Pass Buy a Digital Pass to explore the beauty of our eight 2021/22 digital concerts, on demand, wherever you live. 20 | February 2022

FITS AND STARTS The stutter-step reopening! Four stories of discovery ANDREW TIMAR Lamia Yared, with Labyrinth Ensemble, November 2021 After nearly two years unable to perform, the lucky among us found it was possible in the latter part of October 2021 and into November to begin rehearsing with larger groups. We saw friends and colleagues in bands and orchestras, large and small, grinning in Facebook and Instagram selfies – duly masked (except during the selfies) and double vaxxed of course. But as Omicron swept through, lots of ground was lost where live performance was concerned. Here are four – I hope inspirational – stories from this particular variation on the two-year musical rollercoaster ride. Labyrinth Ensemble: Winter Launch, Spring Concert Responding to venue closures, last year the multifaceted Toronto music organization Labyrinth Ontario created a summer video series in parks across the city, in several small-scale outdoor summer concerts, and in October took part in the Music Gallery’s X Avant festival. More significant, perhaps, was the late year launch of its 14-musician Labyrinth Ensemble, long a dream of Labyrinth Ontario’s founding artistic director Araz Salek. Playing some 20 instruments in more than a dozen “modal music” genres among them, LE musicians were finally able to rehearse in-person in early November with Montreal-based guest vocalist, oudist Lamia Yared. The ten-day intensive focused on the study of the history, forms and other musical aspects of classical Arabic music, learning repertoire and fostering a sense of ensemble, culminating in a sold-out debut concert at the Aga Khan Museum on November 13, 2021 that I was honoured to attend. Under Yared’s able on-stage leadership, the group unravelled a series of elaborate classical Turkish and Arabic musical songs and instrumentals, a notable few in complex metres. An impressively democratic, if inherently risky, element was that each musician was given a solo feature. You can view the entire concert on the Aga Khan Museum’s Facebook page. This April and May LE has its second two-week Toronto intensive, this time mentored by guest Egyptian music scholar and oud master ONLINE FESTIVAL FEBRUARY—MAY, 2022 UTNMF.MUSIC.UTORONTO.CA February 2022 | 21

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